Traditional flowers are back in fashion, as are pods, fairy lights and firepits
May heralds the start of a gardener’s summer. There is a romanticism about a beautifully maintained country garden, as Gertrude Jekyll knew well, but picking up those secateurs and adding outdoor flourishes can also boost the value and appeal of your home.
In a few weeks’ time the green-fingered will congregate at the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show. As garden designers place their bets on the plants and petals that will dominate this year’s Main Avenue, it is a reminder that, like the seasons, garden fashions change. From pines and purple flowers to firepits and garden pods, we look at this summer’s hottest garden trends.
Think old-fashioned flowers, such as hydrangeas, peonies and lavender. Jo Thompson, who runs a London and Sussex-based landscape gardening practice, predicts that there will be a fresh focus on roses this summer.
“It is one of our best-loved flowers — the one flower, apart from perhaps a daisy, that everyone can identify, and in these slightly turbulent times there’s a yearning for something reliable and beautiful.”
Hydrangeas are back in vogue
Mark Straver, the managing director of Hortus Loci, a wholesale nursery that supplies the main garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, has noticed “a certain nostalgia creeping into people’s plant choices”. Pines, for instance, are often “associated with the Chelsea gardens of old, but they are making their presence felt again”. Charlotte Harris, the Royal Bank of Canada’s lead designer at this year’s show, has taken inspiration from Canada with Pinus banksiana (Jack pine), and Matt Keightley, the head designer at Rosebank Landscaping in Maidenhead, Berkshire, will feature the diminutive Pinus mugo ‘Mops’ and Pinus mugo ‘Pumilio’ at Chelsea.
Alongside the vibrant purple of Verbascum phoeniceum ‘Violetta’, white will be one of the most fashionable floral hues this year. “Umbels are a Chelsea staple,” says Straver, as are Ammi majus and Orlaya grandiflora, “but there will be some new kids on the block — Cenolophium denudatum, Athamanta vestina and Laser trilobum.” Expect also to see a lot of Melica altissima ‘Alba’, with its white bead-like flowers on wiry stems.
Lindsay Cuthill, the head of the country department of Savills, says that for keen horticulturalists a summer garden will usually comprise good structural planting (areas of the garden that are put to shrub and herbaceous borders). “Most herbaceous plants are not scented, but nicotiana is a wonderful white-flowered plant, which at dusk has a lovely fragrant scent on summer evenings.”
This four-bedroom house in Exeter, Devon, is on the market for £875,000 with Strutt & Parker and comes with a pod in the garden
The move towards furnishing your garden as you would your interiors is becoming ever more conspicuous. “Whether it’s a townhouse or a country house, there’s a desire to bring the inside out,” says Mark Gregory, the managing director of Landform Consultants. “Innovations in manufacturing techniques are giving us the flexibility to use materials that have traditionally been suited only to interiors — we’re seeing walls in huge sheets of porcelain cladding and other interesting uses of textures and patterns, particularly vertically.”
Another of this summer’s hottest garden features? Fire. “Firebowls, firepits and fireplaces make the garden a warmer and more sociable place to relax and entertain late into the evening,” says the garden designer Charlotte Rowe, who finds that more clients are asking for them. It is an extension of the Scandi interiors trend hygge (the craze for all things “cosy”).
Summerhouses, garden offices and “pods” — the new luxury must-have — are becoming more high-tech, fitted with everything from heating and power points to LED lighting. Indeed, garden lighting in general is coming to the fore, and will be more of a feature than a function this year. Look out for pretty hurricane lanterns, fairy lights and uplighters to illuminate big plants.
According to Edward Church, the head of Strutt & Parker in Canterbury, Kent, “generous terraces, decking and a variety of seating areas designed to catch the sun at different hours of the day” help the inside and outside of a property to complement each other.
“Cloud planting and hedging, using evergreen shrubs such as yew, intermingled with soft grasses and perennials, give outdoor spaces strong structure all year round and are very successful in urban gardens,” Rowe adds. It creates a formal, sculptural look that can reflect the architecture of the house, making the garden a seamless extension of the property, she says.
This house in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, is £3.25 million with Strutt & Parker
Size and selling power
Horticulturists tend their gardens for the love of it, but there are practical considerations if you are trying to sell your home this summer — the state and size of the garden can sway potential buyers. Cuthill says that would-be country-house owners can be intimidated by grounds that seem as though they will require time and money to maintain. “A garden certainly doesn’t have to be either of these things if one is clever,” he says.
According to James Mackenzie, the head of Strutt & Parker’s country department, “a classic country garden style will always look impressive to potential buyers — neat lawns with borders teeming with different colours and plants. Make sure you keep on top of the basics, so ensure fences and gates are in good order, hedges are trimmed, remove unsightly weeds, keep compost and grass cuttings hidden and tuck away the children’s toys.” Don’t neglect the front garden either. Simple things, such as hanging baskets and cleaning your windows, will make a difference.
In Bridport, Dorset, is this four-bedroom house, on the market for £1.85 million with Savills
s there an ideal size for a garden? According to Rachel Johnston, a buying agent for Stacks Property Search, a six-bedroom rural house should have an acre of garden, a five-bedroom house should have three quarters of an acre, and a four-bedroom house should have half an acre. It is also important not to confuse “garden” with “land”, she says.
“Houses in prime non-central London [for example in Fulham and Clapham], town centre or village centre properties need a minimum of a small patch — enough space for outside entertaining, or a small dog to do the odd circuit. Houses in prime outer London [such as Wimbledon] on the edge of a town or village should ideally have a garden that is at least the same size as the square footage of the property.”
Size matters, but shape and access are also important, Johnston says. “Small gardens will, ideally, be as wide as the property, with access from the rear.”